January 31, 2014

Building Character with Prince Broderick and Princess Gabrielle from Different Kind of Knight

It’s Friday! Time for my blog feature, Building Character in which you get to meet characters from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week Strands of Thought is excited to host royalty! As part of the OH WHAT A KNIGHT book tour. Please help me welcome Prince Broderick and Princess Gabrielle from DIFFERENT KIND OF KNIGHT, which released today! (There is also has a generous giveaway going, be sure to enter at the bottom of the post!)

Prince Broderick and Princess Gabrielle, would you please introduce yourselves and tell us a little about you?

Hello, I'm Prince Broderick of Delphine, or Captain Brody, or just plain Brody. I've spent the last year avoiding my duties as Crown Prince as I worked to figure out if I even deserved to lead my people after all the grief my father caused them. It took running in to Rielle for me to learn my Fate.

Hello. I'm Princess Gabrielle of Faldaera, or Rielle, First Knight of the King's Guard. As First Knight, I handle border skirmishes and lead the king's best knights in battles against unusual foes, such as wyverns and hippogriffs. I never thought these skirmishes would bring Brody back into my life.

Wow, those introductions were not at all what I was expecting, a prince running from his duties and a princess who is the First Knight. My, it sounds like you two have quite a bit to overcome.  Please tell me you aren’t up against any other sort of conflict.

Brody: I've joined forces with Rielle to help her with her mission and keep her safe from the traitor hidden among her men. They've tried to kill her once already, and I'm not going to give them a second chance.

Rielle: I'm trying to keep my people safe from whoever is sending all these strange creatures to attack. Faldaera won't fall on my watch.

Oh, my. No rest for the wicked, as it were. What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered while up against assassination attempts and wyverns and the like?

Brody: Rielle and her second-in-command, Tavares. Rielle won't let me help, as she doesn't want to be perceived as weak in the eyes of her men. I totally understand that, and would never undermine her that way. She leaves me no choice but to work around her. From what I can tell, Tavares is her closest friend, and he doesn't like me. Of course, I don't like him all that well, either, especially as I can tell he likes her as more than a friend. 

Rielle: Being a woman leading a group of men and Brody. Some of the men take issue with following orders from a woman. I've dealt with it from day one, not that I like it, but I'm used to it. What I'm not used to is the way Brody asks me what I'm going to do and really listens to what I say. Tavares never asks, just waits for me to give orders. I'm finding I like being able to talk out my ideas with him, much more than I ever thought I would.

Have you learned anything about yourself during all of this?

Brody: I am not responsible for my father's actions. It took a long time for that to sink in, but after my time spent with Rielle, it's a lesson I've learned.

Rielle: Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. Sometimes you need someone at your side to make the burden easier to bear. I know I'd never have survived this year without Brody at my side.

Tell us about your best friend/side kick.

Brody: That would be Ruprecht, my second-in-command. We would have been brothers-in-law, had his sister, Lisabet, not been killed. Instead, we are just close friends and comrades-in-arms. While I know he always has my best interests in mind, there are times his methods frustrate me to no end. But, at the end of the day, he's my closest friend.

Rielle: Tavares is my closest friend. Actually, he's more like a brother to me. I know I'm not as skilled a knight as he is, but he makes me work to better myself, to be the best I can be.

Hmm, Prince Brody is scowling. Which brings up the next question, what is your strongest personality trait?

Brody: Probably patience. I am usually a patient person. Although, Rielle can push me to my limits.

Rielle: Probably stubbornness. I know that's usually seen as a bad thing, but I like to think it's helped me go toe to toe with some knights and persuade them to see things my way.

Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

Brody: I felt people were comparing me to my father, and because of his nefarious deeds, finding me lacking. It's part of the reason I left Delphine and ended up in Faldaera. In the end, I found I was the only one who saw things that way, much to my great relief.

Rielle: Being a woman in a man's position. Until me, First Knight had always been the second born male. I was second born, and there would be no others to follow me. I had to train harder, be better, and not show any signs of weakness. Or, that's what I always thought. Brody showed me I could be a great leader and show my feelings as well.

Well, it was certainly an honor to host the two of you! I look forward to reading your story and learning how this all works out. READERS, here is more about their story, Different Kind of Knight.

Through a twist of fate, Princess Gabrielle became First Knight of the King’s Elite Guard, a position always held by the second born male. She's spent years proving to the Minsters of Faldaera she is capable of leading the king’s Army.

When mythical creatures plague her kingdom, Rielle is sent to capture Captain Brody, the alleged culprit behind the attacks and the man who broke her heart four years ago.

Brody, Crown Prince of Delphine, is living in self-imposed exile, atoning for the sins of his father. But Fate has different plans for him. Tired, beaten down, and ready to give up on life, he is tossed into the path of the one person he would do anything for―Princess Gabrielle.

With a traitor in her ranks, and a mark on her head, Brody joins forces with Rielle, hoping to keep the woman he loves safe. Happily-ever-after is not guaranteed, and mythical creatures aren’t the only danger the couple face. As battles rage, Rielle has the chance to prove herself a capable leader, but will doing so cost her the love of her life?


MuseItUp Publishing:

All other links will be posted here when they come available:

And here is a little about Prince Broderick and Princess Gabrielle’s author:

Mary lives with her husband, son and two cats. When she isn't twisting fairytales, she enjoys reading, playing games, watching hockey, and camping. Her Princess of Valendria series (Quest of the Hart, Charmed Memories, Different Kind of Knight) are available from MuseItUp Publishing and other major retailers. Her Faery Marked (book 1 in the Faery Series) will be available from BookFishBooks this summer.

You can find Mary Waibel at:
@mewtweety14 (twitter)

If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

January 29, 2014

Three Times A Charm with LRW Lee

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with my readers.

Today I'm happy to be hosting a stop on LRW Lee's book release tour. LRW, please tell us a little about you.

As early as 8 years old, after reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis, I wanted to write a book. My family didn’t have a lot of money and my older brother and I were encouraged to use our imaginations to entertain ourselves.  And use them we did – climbing trees and tree forts, using a quilt for a matchbox car city, making puppets and putting on shows, and much more and my creativity and imagination grew.

I went to college and got a degree in Accounting.  However, most folks frown on “creative accounting”, so I put my imagination on hold.  My business and creative interests eventually led me to found and grow a successful company which, with my partner, I sold in January 2012, leaving me time to imagine and write for the first time.

I live in scenic Austin, TX with my husband, my daughter who is a Longhorn at UT Austin and my son who is in high school.

Yeah, people go to jail for “creative accounting.” Lol. You’ve got a series out, the second book just released, right? I LOVE the covers of your books! Tell us more about your newly released title.

In Book two of the Andy Smithson series, Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, eleven-year-old Andy Smithson returns to Oomaldee to retrieve the second ingredient needed to break a 500-year-old curse enacted to punish the current ruler for murdering his older sister when she was 15. Not one to forgive easily, Imogenia’s spirit is bent on thwarting Andy to preserve the curse and naively aligns herself with the evil, scheming Abbadon. Things go from bad to worse when a creature Abaddon conjures from the darkest magic steals the Stone of Athanasia, the source of the ruler’s immortality, causing the king and his wizard Mermin to fall gravely ill. Andy is forced to choose between retrieving the stone or obediently going after the second ingredient. What will he chose? Will he be able to save the King and Mermin?

I recommend my Andy Smithson series to readers who like:
The Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis
The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.
Listening/watching: The Sound of Music is my favorite musical and I love most clean romantic comedies and I hate scary movies, much to my husband’s chagrin. Vacationing: I love sunsets in Hawaii and snorkeling with 12 foot manta rays. Experiencing: A good cup of decaf, French press coffee (yes, decaf!). I also love Ansel Adams prints, as well as all manner of kinetic art.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

1) I wanted to be a vet. I read the series All Things Great and Small by James Harriott as well as the book Zoo Vet and thought it would be awesome to help animals.  (Oh my gosh! I read All Things and wanted to be a vet too!!!)
2) I also thought it would be cool to design homes. I remember drawing dozens of floor plans including inventing awesome rec rooms for kids unlike anything I’d ever seen or experienced. Of course, money was no object J (I wanted to be an interior designer. Are we the same person?)
3) I also thought about being an astronaut. I thought it would be exciting to go up in space and look back at the earth from millions of miles away. (Oh, nope. We aren’t.)

  • Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

1) Frustration is nothing more than your belief that things should be different than they are. Accept that things are exactly as they should be and you can overcome your frustration. Impatience is time-based frustration.
2) When trying something for the first time, accept that you are a beginner and don’t expect to do it perfectly. Don’t be afraid to fail.
3) Accept the limits of what you control
Sorry… I have more
4) When afraid, recognize that you have a choice. You can be gripped by your fear or you can choose to face what you fear and overcome.
5) What you value most, controls you.
6) There are no guarantees, ever.
7) Be humble in good times and confident in bad.
8) Success comes from responsibility, diligence and dignity
9) Be authentic
10) Seize moments of wealth
11) Everything comes down to trust in relationships. If people can’t trust you, they won’t want you around.
12) EVERYTHING is a narrative. NOTHING exists outside narratives.

And when I say 3, I mean 12. Ha ha. Seriously, those are great. I see why you couldn’t stop. Okay, lovely readers, now it’s your turn. LRW wants to hear from you. Share your top 3 responses to any or all of these questions:

If you could, what magical power would you most like to have?
What magical object would you most like? What would it be able to do?
If you could invent a magical friend, what would he/she look and be like? Why?

As a final word, I am excited to announce that the serialized podcast of the first book in the series, Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury is now available at the iTunes store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/andy-smithson/id790958884

Podcasts? Cool! Where else can our tech savvy readers find you online?

Website: LRWLee.com

LRW, is hosting a giveaway. Hop on over to http://www.lrwlee.com/#!giveaway/chq4 to enter to win. 

It was lovely having you charm us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, LRW. Best of luck to you and your books.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

January 27, 2014

Herr Silverman For President! Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

My husband and I share cooking detail, which I love – btw. He'll cook one night. I'll cook the next. We both have the habit of popping in our earbuds and tucking our phone in our back pocket and listening to our latest audio book while we chop and mix and sear.

The other night I decided to make some burgers. I sautéed chopped carrot and garlic to add to the ground beef before I broiled the patties and while the burgers cooked, I sautéed bell pepper, onion and mushroom to pile on top. I prepped the Orowheat sandwich thins, steamed some fresh green beans and dinner was served. (ßtotes yum, btw)

BUT, it wasn’t all sunshine and ground beef. I decided to listen to the end of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I was 5/6 of the way through the book, so I suspected it was going to be emotional. I was right. As I formed the patties and stirred the sautéed veggies, I had to keep bending backward so the tears would fall onto my shirt and not into our meal. (Trying to keep our diet low sodium) I washed my hands several times so I could wipe my soaked cheeks without risk of e-coli.

After serving the dinner I very rudely said, “Finishing a book” and for the first time ever, kept my book playing while I ate. There were 16 minutes left of the recording after dinner finished. I sat on the couch, with my head tipped back, my eyes closed and the tears flowing. My husband held my hand while I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Nobody reads the same book. The reader brings their own knowledge and experience to the story and it shapes how they interpret the meaning and emotion. So, I have my own reasons this book hit me so hard. However, there was a super important message in this book that all adults should hear (or read).

**Spoiler Alert**

Herr Silverman saved Leonard’s life. Herr Silverman listened, cared, acted. Too damn many kids don’t have adults like that in their lives.

Read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

Be Herr Silverman.

January 20, 2014

Use Your Words - What You Can Learn From Inspirational Orators

My children are old enough that if I were to tell them to, “Use your words,” they would most likely pull out a few I had to look up in the dictionary, or maybe even one or two that would make me blush. However, “Use your words” is a popular way for today’s parents to help their young children focus when they are too excited or upset to express themselves well.

Do you suppose Nancy Lincoln said, “Use thee words, Abraham.” Or, Alberta King had to scold, “Your words, Martin! Use your words, son.”

Regardless of whether their mothers had to correct their youthful correspondence or not, the two men grew to become two of my favorite orators.

Funny thing about public speaking. You can be well-spoken, engaging and confident, but if your audience isn’t passionate about your subject, you won’t connect. Both men spoke on timely topics that people felt very passionate about—whether for or against.

In Lincoln’s first inaugural address, 1861 he said:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

In his Gettysburg Address, (I’d like to copy the entire speech, it’s short, but I’ll limit myself – please look it up if you haven’t read it) he said:

…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

He spoke of the equality and freedoms that our country was founded on, which clearly weren’t being recognized. Views that were so polarizing, we warred over them.

Fast forward a hundred years. 100 Years!!! We were still having many of the same conversations about equality and freedoms and the wars were being fought in different ways; with signs excluding colored citizens from using water fountains, through segregation in schools, and by men under white hoods. Along comes another man able to stoke the passions on both sides of the fences separating blacks and whites.

From King’s “Loving Your Enemies” sermon: 

When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it.

From his "Rediscovering Lost Values" sermon: 

The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough, but it’s as if we aren’t good enough. The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind.

And from my all time favorite speech "I Have A Dream":

… One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination…
… We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation…
     Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children…

Strong words, which evoke powerful images. This speech is full of ordinary words strung together into eloquent sentences. Thoughts that make your heart pound fiercely or constrict painfully. Words that make you think, and feel, and hope, and—yes, dream.

And my favorite line from my favorite speech:

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Honestly, Mr. King, I have the same dream. I want my four children to grow into smart, caring, honest and fair adults and I want them to have opportunities, not because they are white, or because they have the right heritage, or because their parents made an appropriately small salary. I want it to be obvious they have earned their opportunities; sought them out, and worked until they achieved them. I want that for every citizen of this country.

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. We celebrate his strength of character, his courage, and his ultimate sacrifice.

What I truly celebrate about MLK is the example he, and many other fine orators, gave, that when you use your words, you can change the world. 

January 15, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Sharon Stanley

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with my readers.

Today’s guest is author, Sharon Stanley. Sharon can you tell us a little about you, please?

I live in rural Virginia, with 5 chickens, 4 dogs, 3 cats, 2 boys, one husband and lots of cows in a crop circle of craziness called White Oak Farm.  It’s a working, family-owned farm which has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years.  Writing material is never a problem!   The Little Dog in the Middle of the Road,  recently published by Silver Tongue Press, is my first in print.   I have several others under contract.
When not writing picture books, I am usually up to my ears in artistic projects or writing about farm life and my publication journey on my blog, www.farmandfrufru.blogspot.com, that is when I’m not needed on the farm. 
I’m a member of SCBWI and have had articles published in Ideals Magazine, The Upper Room and the GAP Kids e-zine through Guardian Angel Publishing.

Tell us more about your book.

The Little Dog in the Middle of the Road is actually based on a true story that happened here on the
farm.  Of course the first draft was about 2000 words and was eventually whittled down to its present state.  I’ve written for a number of years, but this was the first book I actually tried to have published.  It took over a year, but I am pleased with the result and have met so many wonderful people in the process.

The original little dog was returned to his owner (thankfully!), but I was so taken with him, I wanted one of my own and bought “Olive” a little Yorkie-Poo soon after.  When the illustrator, Diedre Carr heard about Olive, she added the little ant pushing the olive throughout the book in honor of my little Olive….I love that!  Children seem to really enjoy searching each illustration for that little olive!

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.

Since I am new to writing myself, I feel qualified to answer this question!  I think the ability to research a publisher very carefully before submitting a manuscript is particularly important.  It’s such a waste of time to submit to a publisher who doesn’t publish your type of writing, be it age, story type or whatever.  Carefully googling and researching is such a time saver in the end.  A second important skill I believe is editing.  Slash that manuscript!  I tend to be very wordy, but when I put a manuscript on the back burner for a few weeks and let it simmer, I find it much easier to slash and cut ruthlessly.  If you are not good at it, find someone who is.  Thirdly, I think it’s important to be able to write a great query/cover letter.  There are lots of classes, books, and blogs about queries and there’s a reason for that.  That’s a tricky business and doing it well pays off down the road.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

I love art.  When I’m not writing I want to be making something.  I love working with paint, fabric, ribbon or paper creating some sort of art project.  I loved Captain Kangaroo when I was a child and my favorite part of the show was when he pulled out that shoebox of art supplies and made a puppet or hat.  I still get that feeling when I start a new art project!

I love to thrift.  For me, it’s the thrill of the hunt.  When we bought a small farm about 40 miles from home, we built a barn with a small studio apartment.  I vowed to outfit the space on less than $1000 and with my thrifting, I did it.  Tons of fun!  I love seeing what I can find and then what I can do to make it better.

I love being at home.  The best afternoons are spent reading magazines on the front porch just watching the cows in the field.  It’s peaceful, quiet and simple.  I like that.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

Growing up I remember very much wanting to be an artist and to write.  I can’t draw a stick, but I do enjoy creating in other ways.  I think I always did.  I also remember wanting to be a Vet.  I’ve always loved animals and thought working with them would be a great way to make a living.  But as old-fashioned as it sounds, more than anything, I wanted a home and family, just like my mother had.  I’ve always admired my mother and grandmother very much and thought the jobs of “keeping house” and raising a family were very important and very cool.  Both my mother and grandmother always treated their “jobs” as important and I grew up thinking that’s what I wanted to do.  Lucky me, in some ways I get to live all three of those childhood dreams!

Readers, now Sharon wants to hear from you. Share your response to this question:

Do you prefer quiet books or those with more action for children today?

Where can our tech savvy readers find you online?

Sharon, it was lovely having you charm us on this week’s Three Times A Charm. Best of luck to you and your book.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

January 13, 2014

Why You Should Commit to the Writers Rebel Creed

In general, writing is a singular activity. You sit alone in front of a laptop with your only companions being those inside your mind. Facebook calls your name, flashy blog posts draw your attention, next thing you know, the day is waning and you’re imaginary friends are heading out to dinner without you. How can you keep yourself focused?

Commit to the 2014 Writers Rebel Creed

By following the suggested idea to post a monthly blog update you keep your eye on your target of getting new words into a Word document – maybe even one with a shiny new book title. (Unlike mine that is usually the characters’ names until the fourth or fifth revision!)

Stopping to review what you’ve accomplished in a month is a fantastic way to remind yourself that you ROCK at this writing thing. Taking another moment to look forward one month helps you to formulate a plan on how to stay on track. Goals can only be achieved by taking steps toward them, but if you aren’t watching where you’re going, you might veer off track.

Networking with other committed Creed-ers can provide instructional information and inspiration! You might learn how to market to librarians. Find out how others overcame writer’s block, or hit their daily word counts.

Plus you will give and get writing support. Who can’t use a pat on the back for a job well done? A virtual hug after a rejection? An epic cheerleader pyramid after a book sale? Okay, I guess that might not happen.

If you want to have a more successful 2014, then COMMIT! Commit to the Writers Creed. Just click on the picture above, and add your name to the roster. Then we’ll see you and your accomplishments around the Internet!

January 10, 2014

Building Character with Kelly from Down Under Calling

It’s Friday! Time for my blog feature, Building Character in which you get to meet a character from a book. Talking to a character outside of their book is fun! Huge. Amounts. Of fun. 

This week Strands of Thought is excited to host Kelly from Down Under Calling.  It’s nice to meet you Kelly. Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Kelly, Andy’s friend.
Andy lives in a tiny condo down the street from my house.  His parents are still married, but his dad got downsized – hence the condo.  My parents are divorced, so neither of them take much notice of me. I don’t get why they divorced – they still fight every time they see each other. I also inherited a bunch of step-grandparents when both of them remarried.  All of them give me stuff. Why is that?  I guess they think gifts and money will make me feel better about the divorce – kinda crazy thinking. . . right?

Divorce is a difficult situation for everyone involved. What would you like to see happen to fix it?

I want Mom and Dad to look at each other the way Andy’s parents do.  I’ve  seen them sneak a kiss.  Andy doesn’t realize how good he has it  – even if he did have to trade his dog and home for a itsy-bitsy condo.

Lots of happy families all around the world live in condos or apartments. What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ve encountered trying to fix your problem?

Mom never listens to me. And Dad’s new wife has a cow every time he visits with me. So you guessed it, I hardly ever see my dad. You know at school we learn all about the major stuff adults think we need to know – except how to be a first-rate parent.  I say, Parenting 101 Class for all those who flunked and got divorced!

What have you learned about yourself or Andy while dealing with all of this?

Andy hates that crummy condo, and I don’t blame him.  He had a really cool home before his dad was downsized, but the bank took it back. I think he’d like to live in my super cool house.  Fine by me – as long as I can be adopted by HIS parents, and live with them.

Tell us more about Andy.

I guess Andy and I are best buds. But lately, he acts all funny when I come over. What’s with that?  He has a really cool grandma though, in Australia.  She sends him letters – all about the weird Aussie animals that come to her garden. She writes him about what it was like growing up Down Under, in ancient times. Super hard to believe – I mean, no phone, no washing machine, and no TV?  The animals are definitely awesome. We Google them for more details. His Grandma Rose is a REAL grandma though – the kind that actually cares about him.

Now, we’d love to learn more about you, Kelly. Is there anything about you that people are always giving you a hard time about? How do you feel about it?

I have red hair. The bullies in middle school tease me about it, and my freckles. Andy said freckles are cute. Can you believe that?  Mum said,
“Get over it!” Just about what I expected from her.

What are your three favorite leisure activities?

Reading, my XBox, and listening to the latest in pop. Wait though: I guess I haven’t done much of that lately. Too busy sharing letters from Grandma Rose (Andy lets me read them), riding bikes together, bird watching, learning about Grandma Rose’s Aussie critters on Google, and reading in the park – if no birds are around.. 

What are your three favorite foods?

Hamburgers for one. Plus yummy hot ham-and-pea soup, with chunks of French bread.   And chocolate cake with ice cream of course, plus lots of creamy frosting – De-lish!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Maybe a counselor that helps kids with crazed divorced parents? There’d be a ton of work for me.  Half the kids at school have divorced parents.

Three favorite books or movies?

I’m reading The Revenge of Thelma Hill right now, a creepy ghost mystery. I like books that take me different places - scary adventures with a bunch of action and fun.  Like Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble, all about an aboriginal boy in Australia and his talking cockatoo.

If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?

I’d get people all over the world talking to each other - ordinary people,  not just politicians.  Once you start talking, instead of shooting, it’s much easier to find peaceful ways.  And I’d make parents work on their problems – not give up and divorce, like mine did.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with our readers?

Sure, I have crummy parents, but I’m lucky with my friends. Andy says that when his grandma comes to live here in Oregon, she’ll be my friend too.  He says we always get to choose our friends. It’s our relatives we’re stuck with.  

And my friend Andy is awesome!

Readers, here is more information about Kelly’s story Down Under Calling.

Down Under Calling:
(a young teen book)
When a reluctant grandson in Oregon is pressured into writing to his grandma in Australia, wonderful things happen. Both have a need for love and reassurance. Back and forth the letters go. Josh shares his daily problems, and Grandma Rose shares past memories, fun stories, and what it was like growing up Down Under in the early 1950s.  All this astonishes her grandson and his friend Kelly. And together they shrink the Pacific Ocean into a puddle they can easily ford.
*Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/bg9dtxt
  Paper + Kindle
*Autographed:  http://tinyurl.com/ko8ukew     
  BUY Direct - Save $2 a book.

And here is some information about Kelly’s author:

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, and their three children are now grown and doing very well. Four grandchildren are the delight of her life.

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot says, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes!"

She has 13 books published, and you can see all of them on her Website +  Links to reviews, covers, book trailers, sample writing, and how and where to buy.

FREE Sneak Peek inside ALL her Books: http://tinyurl.com/8qw44al
If you have a character from a children’s, tween or young adult book that you’d like to see interviewed on Building Character, please contact kaistrand at yahoo dot com.

January 8, 2014

Three Times A Charm with Terry Cook

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with my readers.

Today’s guest is author, Terry Cook. Terry can you tell us a little about you, please?

I grew up in Omaha, NE in an Irish Catholic neighborhood where I never had to be afraid someone would try to abduct me or any of my friends. I had a no frills education by today’s standards (graphic design, shop, jazz ensemble) but could read, write and compute admirably well. If I was in trouble at school, I was in trouble at home. So I learned to keep my mouth shut and not complain about my teacher. My mother did not want to hear it. My job was to go to school and learn as much as I could, plain and simple. She had been denied the opportunity to go to college and she made sure everyone of her children went so that we could have real futures.

I was an educator for almost 30 years, which was a bit of a surprise since when I went off to college I hadn’t a clue what to do. I volunteered for mentally challenged adult groups and fell in love with the process of helping others to learn. I guess I was pretty good at it because I was a Teacher of the Year, Middle School teacher of the Year, County teacher of the Year, a Disney Teacheriffic recipient and was recognized by USA-Today, Gannett Publishing as one of the top 25 educators in 2000.

Which brings me to books. Writing picture books for children seems a natural extension of teaching. I know what children like to read and look at and so crafting them, although not easy, is a pleasure and a joy. I thought a lot about what I wanted to do after I was done teaching and started planning for it before I retired. I wanted to prevent what happened to so many of my colleagues after they quit work. They were lost, without purpose and bored to spit. This has been a great 2nd career.

Can you tell us about your books?

Book cover for her upcoming release
So far, I have two picture books, “A Moose at the Bus Stop” and “Emma McKenna’s Ice Cream Dilemma,” both published by Guardian Angel Publishing, out of St. Louis, MO. I am currently illustrating a book for Scholastic, which is due out in 2015.   On the final page of my books I list my website where a teacher, parent, etc can go to download reinforcement materials for the story in order to enhance the child’s skills: alphabetizing, comprehension, inference, word finds, etc. These are all free. I do it because when I was teaching before I could put out a new book I had to create the dittos to go with the book. It was time-consuming. I feel that if someone buys the book then I can provide the materials as a “thank you.”

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

         Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.

1.  Sharpen up your work ethic and be persistent
2.  Believe strongly in yourself and your abilities.  If you do not exude confidence you can’t sell meat to a starving dog.
3.  Be willing to educate yourself on the publishing/illustration industry.  Buy a subscription and read it cover to cover. Understand the trends, styles and names of the people in the market itself.

         Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

1.  Get a truly useful degree or real world skill. A degree in Family and Social Integrative Sciences doesn’t tell me a thing. The first thing I’ll ask you in the interview is, “But what can you do with it?”
2.  Stop whining! and toughen up. It’s true, life is unfair.
3.  Never, ever put anything on a social media site you wouldn’t put on a billboard next to the Santa Monica Freeway in CA.  These things WILL come back to haunt you.

         Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

1.  Failure means you are about to learn something, keep trying.
2. “ Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, or won’t ever have. We spend too much energy being down, when we could use that same energy-if not less of it-doing, or at least trying to do, some of the things we really want to do. “                                                         -Author, Terry McMillan
3. To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.

Now, Readers, Terry wants you to give your top 3 responses to:

1.        Do you feel that cell phones/social media have contributed to the rudeness of   Americans?
2.       I have been told by friends who are college instructors that this current group of young adults does not show much interest in social justice causes, .ie, pollution, poverty, doing volunteer work. Why?
3.       Do you believe that “…everyone can be bought for a price?”

Ooo, those are heavy questions, Terry. I hope we get a good conversation going over those.

Where can our tech savvy readers find you online?

Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Terry. Best of luck to you and your books.


GUESTS WELCOME!  I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

January 6, 2014

If You See This In Your Facebook News Feed, Hit Like!

Happy New Year Boys and Girls!

Sorry the blog has been on radio silence. I’ve been contemplating its future. I still haven’t come to a decision, so I guess things will continue on—as is—until I have some sort of blog epiphany. Those happen, right?

Today I want to talk about Facebook. There are many social networks out there and I’m active on several of them. Regardless of their seeming self-sabotage, I prefer Facebook to any others.

What do I mean by self-sabotage? I’m referring to their need to make constant changes that tend to alienate so many people. Though I sometimes find it tiring to log on and find buttons/tabs switched from the left to the right, rearranged columns, or a new font for the notifications…most of the changes simply take getting used to. But some of those changes are less obvious and harmful to those of us trying to create a presence on the site.

Most recently (beginning of December), Facebook changed the algorithm used to decide what shows up in your news feed. Though they insist they didn’t do it with the intention of pushing for more paid advertising, it significantly impacted the viewership of pages big and small. So after spending a lot of time building a following, Facebook can make a simple change that will leave your viewership in the dark—without the fan even noticing. Basically, some or all of your posts just stop showing up in their feed. Unless they come looking for you to see why you’ve gone quiet, they’ll never even realize you are still out there sharing links to interesting articles, pictures of stunning sunsets, or asking for input on decoupaging the pew in their entryway.

A common reply to any complaint against Facebook is, “Sorry that free site isn’t working for you.” The irony is, I used to occasionally pay to boost posts. It was a great way to attract new followers. WAS being the operative word. Now when I pay to boost posts, I might increase my view of that post, but I don’t see the numbers I used to, plus I simply don’t get the pay-off of an increased following like I used to. Where as I used to see dozens of new followers, now I might pick up 3 or 5. Obviously, I’ve reconsidered paying to boost my posts.

The recent change to the algorithm impacts your already cultivated veiwership – I haven’t even addressed the ripple effects to attracting new likes to your page, but needless to say, it will be measurably harder to do if the activity on your page dies away when you stop showing up in people’s feed.

I’d like to suggest to all Facebook users out there to please take the time to look for activity from your favorite pages, such as mine: Kai Strand, Author. Browse your pages feed regularly. You’ll be surprised how many pages are there that don’t show up in your news feed. As you browse - click like, hit share and/or comment on any and all activity you like. It is a simple, simple action for you, but priceless for that page’s chances of more people seeing it. Those actions are ten times more important now than they were before.

Facebook remains my favorite social media to use, because of the versatility of what information you can share, the visual of such information, as well as the ability to interact with multiple people in a conversation. I just hope I don’t end up talking to myself one day!

If you have any tips on using Facebook pages effectively, I’d love to hear them!